Windows will rattle and walls will shake as many slam the door on 2019. It has been a challenging year with low milk prices, trade wars and excessive weather of every kind. For some, it will become their benchmark year by which all other years will be judged. If you can make it through this year, then you can make it through anything.
    It can be easy to get hung up on how tough of a year it has been, but we need to jump down off that hook. As I was writing our Christmas letter, I recalled all the things we did despite the tough circumstances which were out of our control. All my memories of 2019 centered on celebrations of love and life. We welcomed a new granddaughter and a new daughter-in-law to the family. We celebrated graduations and promotions of our children. We even snuck in a trip to Florida in early May. The bad weather allowed us to enjoy our time warming up guilt free since we could not be in the fields back home anyway. We said goodbye to several older family members, including Mark’s dad, Ralph, who was 93, by celebrating a long life well lived. We also celebrated milestone birthdays as we inch closer to retirement age.
    Of these past 365 days, one day sticks out for absolutely no particular reason except for its pure simplicity and wonder. The wacky weather this fall created a mixed-up harvest schedule. We were constantly adjusting on the fly. Grain corn was chopped, and silage corn was combined. Nothing was in its proper order or time. We were trying to squeeze in as much work as we could between rains and soggy field conditions. Then one day, everything aligned.
    I wish I could have been an eagle floating above the fields that fall day looking down on all of the activity. I bet we looked like an ant colony filling up for winter as we followed corn row trails across the fields and back to the farm yard. Or, we looked like an older tractor company commercial. How fortunate we were to have enough drivers and tractors to get several jobs done all at once. It was like a flash mob dance scene with everyone meandering to their spot in the fields. Jason, the custom round baler, lined his new baler and tractor over a row of corn stalks Al had raked together. I was leading this charge with the stalk chopper. Austin was across the drainage ditch picking up bales to stack in the yard. Once an area was cleared, Mark started chisel plowing the remaining stalks. We have never covered so much ground in such a short time. Because I couldn’t do anything else except drive slowly in loops, I started to notice the little nuances of our situation and enjoyed the wonder.
    It seems like we are always rushing to get from one job to the next that we miss these simple moments of awe and wonder. Add the commotion of the holiday season to daily farming duties and I have to remind myself to stop and savor the simple moments surrounding me. As I was driving home from church I heard a poem which is a rewrite of 1 Corinthians 13 by Sharon Jaynes. It caught my attention, and I added a few farming style revisions to her words.
    If I plant my corn rows by the road with perfect precision, the farm yard mowed and landscaped to a tee, the equipment always cleaned and the cattle always clipped but do not show love to my family, I’m just another farmer.
    If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arrange a beautifully adorned table at mealtime but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.
    If I serve on the school board and creamery board, sing in the church choir and give all that I have to charity but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.
    If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
    Love sets aside the farming to kiss the spouse.
    Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
    Love is kind though rushed and tired.
    Love doesn’t envy another home with coordinated Christmas china and table linens or another farmer’s achievements.
    Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way but is thankful they are there to be in the way. Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always endures. Love never fails. Tractors will break, cattle will go down, crops will fail but giving the gift of love will endure.
    Is your family being neglected because of a hectic Christmas schedule or unending farm chores? We have all been given different gifts, and love is the action which makes our gifts useful. Love your family well this holiday season and every season.
    Natalie, Mark and his brother Al, farm together near Rice, Minn. They milk 100 registered Holsteins under the RALMA prefix. Their four children are grown up and all involved in agriculture with hopes of someone returning to the farm. For questions or comments, please e-mail Natalie at